Globalization is quickly changing the rules of how business gets done. The size and scope of a company is becoming less important – agile and innovative start-ups are changing the rules and context of business. Now the battle for talent, markets, innovations and information is global. People specializing in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) are swiftly becoming the most sought-after employees because they are in short supply and those fields are critical to the prosperity of organizations operating in the global economy.
For organizations to successfully identify, recruit, develop and retain top STEM talent they must focus on three fronts – I call it the Power of Three:
Incentives: Why does anyone, do anything? Essentially, the answer is to gain something of perceived value or to avoid perceived pain. We have to incentivize people, especially women and people of color, to consider a STEM profession. Of course there are the economic incentives. In fact the average STEM salary is already nearly twice the average US salary. But there are other incentives that might prove more valuable such as flexible work arrangements, part-time assignments, on-site child care, concierge services, resource & networking groups and an overall company commitment to work-life balance.
Choices: We all have choices – we may not always like our choices – but we always have choices. And there is wide range of choices associated with successfully increasing the number of people pursuing STEM careers. Think of it as a ‘choice chain’ – like a value chain or a supply chain – that ultimately must be synchronized and work in harmony to be effective.
Choices must be made by legislators, business leaders, community influencers, education administrators, teachers, parents and students…and we need to encourage everyone, at every level of the ‘choice chain’ to think critically and carefully about the importance of STEM and their role in supporting and encouraging it.
Opportunities: Visionary leaders and forward-looking companies create great opportunities. That is how they secure the best talent and motivate those individuals to exceed expectations. It is as simple as that. Mentoring, training & development and stretch assignments are all great ways to ignite passion and inspire achievement, especially in populations that may not have role models. You have to design opportunities that meet people where they are and prepare them for success. This is good for the individual and good for the business.
To be competitive in the global marketplace a strong and sustainable STEM talent pipeline has to be established inclusive of women and people of color. Organizations that focus on the Power of Three to develop their STEM workforce will be better able to understand and leverage Incentives, provide an environment that supports informed Choices and seize the opportunity to create Opportunities.